Review: Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death

I have been trying to see this movie for years, but it simply was not stocked at our local Blockbuster. This is not surprising. Released in 1989, it was made on a shoestring and just for cheap laughs.

However, now that I have belatedly joined Netflix, I have access to a whole range of obscure (as well as grade B and C) movies that were unavailable for easy rental before. This campy movie became my very first Netflix rental.

My family enjoys a bad movie now and then. We have a small collection of truly rotten movies, from classic bad movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space to more obscure bad movies, like the absolutely must-be-seen-by-any-bad-movie-aficionado Sheena (1984). (Sheena stars Tanya Roberts as a blonde, blue-eyed jungle warrior who runs around Africa on a horse painted to look like a zebra.) We were introduced to some of these movies via the classic Medved Brothers bad movie books published in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Perhaps ten years ago I was hunting through a bargain basement bookrack and came across Video Trash & Treasures by L.A. Morse. If you have any interest in bad movies, this book is a must read, providing you can find it. It is an exhaustive review of ghastly grade B & C horror and science fiction movies from the 1980s. Many of these movies were rip offs of rip offs and were designed to earn its producers a few quick bucks at very little expense. They were often made with unknown actors and terrible directors. Irreverently written, the book remains a surprisingly fun read.

It was Video Trash & Treasures that mentioned Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death as one of its favorite and schlockiest B movies. As an almost imprimatur of its low quality, it features the bosomy Adrienne Barbeau. Those of us of a certain age will remember her from the Maude TV series of the 1970s and the movie Escape from New York (1981). This movie, unlike Sheena, was made to be campy. In this aspect is succeeds rather well.

Shannon Tweed plays Dr. Margo Hunt, a professor of feminist studies at a Spritzer University, which comes complete with a big, phallic shaped building. The government pays her a visit to persuade her to visit the Avocado Jungle that, by the way, consists of much of southern California. It is controlled by the radical feminist Dr. Kurtz (Adrienne Barbeau), whose band of women, as you might suspect, have unorthodox eating practices. They like to hunt down, kill and consume any men that happen to wander into the jungle. Well, apparently not all men. There is a small tribe of subjugated men who spend their time being wimps and making potholders for the women. As a professor of feminist studies, Dr. Hunt is arm twisted into going into the Avocado Jungle to persuade Dr. Kurtz to give up. The government wants to remove these radical feminists from the avocado jungle because, of course, avocados are critical to our national security. If these radical women agree to surrender, the government will give them all free condominiums!

Of course, Dr. Hunt will not go into the jungle alone. A Valley Girl boy-crazy student of hers named Bunny (Karen Mistal), who seems to be embracing feminism as her latest fad, wants to come along too. On their way, they stop at a biker bar to select a male guide. This turns out to be, of all people, Bill Maher. Apparently, he has had a nose job since this movie was filmed.

The rest of the plot does not really matter and believe me you will not care how it turns out. The question is whether the cheap laughs and humor make it worth a rental. If you are someone who appreciates schlocky movies, the answer is clearly yes. Shannon Tweed actually turns in quite a nice performance as the measured, always respectful but of course drop dead gorgeous feminist professor from Spritzer University. Much of the humor though revolves around Bunny, who has to wear everything in pink and is not amiss to wearing pink high-heeled shoes while traipsing through the Avocado Jungle. Adrienne Barbeau does not show up until halfway through the movie. All the jungle women are, of course, drop dead gorgeous and, with the exception of Ms. Barbeau, cannot be older than 25.

The movie does slowly fade after the first highly amusing fifteen minutes. Once we understand that Buffy will always wear pink, for example, the humor has less of an impact. Still it is amazing that with such a silly plot this movie can keep you chuckling for its ninety minute running time. It includes a finale swordfight between these feminist professors that is one of the least convincing of all time. Considering that it looks like a movie made for less than $100,000 it delivers a lot of laughs. Having finally seen it though, I felt that one viewing had scratched the itch completely.

For me, a movie like this one that tries to be campy is generally not quite as humorous as a movie designed to be serious but which becomes a fiasco that slimes everyone in it. That is why, while I will remember and laugh over certain scenes in Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death for many years, Sheena will remain forever on my DVD rack. (Watch Sheena online here for the cost of a short commercial.)

So pick up Sheena first, since it is more likely to be available anyhow. Otherwise, yeah, go ahead and rent this movie. While the humor is sometimes strained, it is often hilarious and it manages to stay at least amusing throughout. If you keep a private stock of schlocky movies, this is definitely one to consider purchasing. Just be aware you probably will not reach for it very often.

There is some brief nudity involving gorgeous topless women at the start of the film, otherwise there is nothing here that will give offense. I do not recall a swear word in the whole movie.

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